News Tidbits 11/17/13: Hotels and Hazing

18 11 2013


After a lull in new development proposals in the city of gorges, something new has come to the table.  Down in big box land, another hotel seeks to join the ten-year old Hampton Inn (66 rooms) and the recently-completed Fairfield Inn (106 rooms). According to Jason over at Ithaca Builds, the proposed “All Suites Hotel” at 371 Elmira Road calls for a 4-story, 54′ tall, 11,769 sq ft hotel with approximately 76 rooms, proposed for the site of a vacant office building and an auto body shop (both of which would be demolished). Looking at the aerial below, its proximity to the new Fairfield (upper right) is quite clear. Planning board agenda here, map of site here, site plans here, elevations/renderings here.


Although no brand is stated in the proposal, I suspect it might be a part of the Holiday Inn Express brand owned by Intercontinental Hotels Group. For one, the hotel is in the 60-80 room range as recently-built HIE hotels (see the recently-opened 74-room Holiday Inn Express in Cortland for example).  Reason number two, Intercontinental Hotels Group will lose its Ithaca presence once the license with the downtown property expires in January, and the Ithaca hotel market is generally strong enough that they might wish to maintain a slice of the hospitality market.


Although it’s pretty standard chain hotel fare, architectural work is being handled by Buffalo-based Silvestri Architects. Additional work will be undertaken by Optima Design and Engineering, also out of Buffalo (no surprise, the developer’s LLC also has a Buffalo address). Both organizations have previous experience with chain hotel construction and design.

Apart from that, other proposals in the city include a small amount of infill at the Statler Hotel, a two-family home on West Hill, and a 10,384 sq ft commercial building on Cherry Street. Ithaca Builds notes the Cherry Street proposal is a Crossfit Gym, to be housed in a rather industrial-looking 1-story structure with a pitched roof.

In other news, Cornell has beaten a proverbial hornet’s nest with a stick. The Cornell Sun published an article last Friday that the men’s lacrosse coach would be dismissed from his position.  The decision is widely suspected to be related to the suspension of the Lacrosse team from fall exhibition games after a hazing incident where allegedly freshman were forced to chug beer by senior team members. Unlike fraternities, where one merely has to wait before some chapter does something stupid, the lacrosse team is respected by its peers and a moneymaker for the university, so this seems unreasonably harsh. Given the commentary on the article, Cornell’s heavy-handed approach appears to have its share of critics. As a personal opinion, I feel the lacrosse team is being made an example of, to scare the other teams into playing nice. In the long run, I don’t think there will be much uproar until the university starts to go after large student groups outside the Greek system and athletics.  The more students who feel Cornell breathing down their necks, the more they’ll raise a hue and cry.

UPDATE 1/30/14: And it is in fact a Holiday Inn Express. I’m giving myself a gold star.

News Tidbits 10/15/13: Ithaca’s Had Better Weeks

16 10 2013


It’s weeks like this that make me want to crawl into bed.

News piece one – The only piece of news that isn’t bad.  the Holiday Inn-turned-Hotel Ithaca will be taking a little longer than expected. Not a bad thing, just the schedule being re-arranged; the old hotel portion will be renovated in phase one (November 2013 – May 2014) and keep its 90 employees throughout the process. The conference center will now begin construction in March 2014, and the new hotel tower will start construction in May. If it keeps people employed, then I’m certainly not going to complain.

News piece number two – the Purity Ice Cream apartment project is dead, as Ithaca Builds reported yesterday. The reasons cited were “market conditions”, which I’m disinclined to believe, but then, I don’t know what numbers they’re running with. The building will still be renovated and add about 2,600 square feet of office space on the second floor, including a little rooftop terrace. You’re right IB, this is a bummer.

The latest planning board agenda suggests nothing particularly new or exciting, unless you count adding space down in big-box land.

News piece number three, four, etc – The Syracuse Post-Standard seems to be having a field day running all these crime reports from Ithaca.  The nutjob looking for his lily-white nymphs seems to be a hit with the commentariat.

So…better luck next week, I guess.

Lock Up Your Damn House

4 08 2013


Back during my own Cornell days, I can remember an incident where over Spring Break my freshman year, my fraternity (I was pledging at the time) had one of its code-key locks substantially damaged, which given that it looked like it was attacked with a blunt object, we assumed was an attempted burglary. It is no big surprise that wealthy Cornell students have a habit of leaving expensive things in their rooms, and that with a cunning and conniving mind, those things can easily end up in the hands of a thief. Luckily in our case, the thief gave up and went elsewhere (although we had a $300 grill stolen right off the property not long after I graduated).
That is why stories like this don’t surprise me. From the Ithaca Independent:

Two suspects have been arrested in the Sunday burglary of 55 Ridgewood Road, home of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house.  Ithaca police were called to the address after a resident returning home caught a burglary in progress.

Using a description of the two suspected burglars and the vehicle they used to leave the scene with a list of stolen items, a 28-year-old Lansing woman and a 35-year-old Elmira man were arrested Monday…(cont.)


The cops only found the burglars because the two were reported to the police for a domestic incident, and left in their truck.  They essentially gave themselves away, since they and the vehicle matched the description provided by the witness.

In sum, although Ithaca is generally safe city, Greek houses would do well to limit access over breaks, and for its members to discreetly make use of a strongbox for valuables.

Creeping in Collegetown

26 03 2013

12-29-2011 073

I have never understood, nor will ever try to understand, the fascination some have with invading the privacy of young college women in their apartments. A recent Cornell Sun article notes a case where a former Cornell student entered two apartments in the 312 College Ave. apartment building uninvited. These apartments were occupied by female students, who screamed and/or confronted the guy, causing him to flee. Apart from the obvious threat a guy like this poses, I couldn’t help but think that events like these have been going on for a while now.

My first thought was the “Collegetown Creeper”, a story that I already knew from when I was growing up north of Syracuse, because that’s how much of a media sensation it was. The creeper was tied into at least 18 cases, occurring in 2003 and 2004. Most of the earlier ones were cases of peering through windows into the apartments of young females. Then the creep factor was kicked up a notch in early 2004 when he would break in and watch them sleeping. By the end of his reign of terror, he had graduated to full-blown sexual abuse. At least one victim claimed her clothes were cut off and baby oil was poured onto her. As one might imagine, this created quite a stir, and by the fall of 2004, students were protesting outside Common Council meetings, demanding further action be taken on the issue.

The creeper was eventually arrested in late October 2004. The suspect was identified as Abraham Shorey, who at 23, a married father of six, and sporting Rastafarian-style dreads, seemed as unlikely a sexual criminal as any. Shorey was familiar with the Collegetown area and its crowds, as he worked as a cook over at The Nines. Before his arraignment on charges of burglary and sexual abuse, Shorey posted baiand fled the area. He managed to avoid arrest on two occasions  by producing fake IDs throughout his time as a fugitive. He was finally arrested a year later in San Diego, where he plead guilty to assault with intent to rape a San Diego County woman in May 2005. DNA evidence collected at the scene of the San Diego incident linked him as the perpetrator of the events in Ithaca from the previous two years. His sentence in California is seven years and four months, but the charges against him in New York were dropped for a number of reasons (time elapsed, difficulty locating witnesses, etc.)

Unfortunately, much worse has also occurred. Although technically not Collegetown, a 25-year old graduate student was raped and murdered near North Campus in May 1981, her body then dumped into the gorge. Her killer would graduate and go on to commit seven more murders in downstate NY and CT before being arrested.

Ignoring all the insensitive jokes students make about “forcible touching” here, female students at Cornell have every reason to be concerned for their safety, in the past, now, and for the foreseeable future.

The Strange Case of Edward H. Rulloff

21 02 2012

Image Property of Rulloff's Restaurant, Ithaca NY

In some way, shape or form, most Cornellians are familiar with the Rulloff name. If you’ve ever lingered in Collegetown, you’re aware of Rulloff’s restaurant and bar over on College Avenue. If you’re a real campus adventurer, you might even be aware of Edward Rulloff’s brain, stored in preservatives over in Uris Hall. But, apart from the piece of news that he was a convicted murderer and noted linguist, not much else is shared. So this entry is to shine a little more light on the murderous man of many talents.

Edward H. Rulloff (officially John Edward Howard Rulofson) was born around 1820 to Rulof Rulofson, a second-generation American who had the unfortunate luck of being a loyalist living in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. Unsurprisingly, he left for New Brunswick, where he was granted land and became, of all things, justice of the peace. Some articles suggest that Edward developed his talents as a result of an incident where his younger brother Rulof was critically injured due to  a beating from a school teacher (it took young Rulof several weeks to recover; the teacher begged for forgiveness, which was apparently given, and the brother became a prosperous lumber merchant in northern Pennsylvania).

Edward was, as an adult, described as a serious and studious individual, professorial, even grandfatherly. He was devoted to his research, often spending several hours a day researching and writing, in spartan accommodations – the life of a hard-nosed academic.  He went by numerous names and aliases – Edouard Leurio, Edward Rulofson, and his preferred name, Edward Rulloff. Edward Rulloff considered himself a self-taught but well-respected philologist – that is, a person who studies language formation.

Edward Rulloff’s research was that he believed there was “method” in the incongruities of the world’s languages (a sort of “key” for decoding languages). This pursuit was dubious at best; his theories were but one of dozens, with most of the others tying into “superior” and “inferior” languages and overt racism.  Besides the philology, Rulloff was a self-trained physician, an inventor, and a self-proclaimed expert on phrenology (a debunked science suggesting that bumps on the human skull were indicative of certain behaviors and character traits). However, he had never gained much wealth, which he wrote off to “misfortunes”, as he opined during his many forays into self-pity. He hoped to build his name on his manuscript, Method in the Formation of Language, and gain the wealth and respect he craved.

But there was more to Edward Ruloff than his elderly professor persona; as a young man, he served two years for embezzlement. Arriving in Dryden in the 1840s, he was arrested for several burglaries and robberies between 1845 and 1871, and was accused of beating his wife Harriet and their young daughter to death (it was alleged their bodies were dumped into Cayuga Lake; although never proven, he served ten years, possibly because the jury believed an innocent man does not flee to Chicago and then lure his brother-in-law out west on a wild goose chase), as well as poisoning his sister-in-law and niece. Although Rulloff was in and out of jail (and broke out of the Tompkins County jail at least once, only to be apprehended in Ohio after being recognized by an old prison-mate), he avoided real punishment due to a lack of evidence in his crimes.

Eventually, his luck ran out. After murdering a store clerk in Binghamton, Rulloff was sentenced to death by hanging. He was caught because he left behind his shoes fleeing the scene, and missing his left big toe, the lack of a left toe indent in those shoes made for an easy identifier of their owner.  His was the last public hanging in New York State, on May 18th, 1871. It is claimed his last words were  “Hurry it up! I want to be in hell in time for dinner.” His brain was collected by Cornell professor Burt Wilder, who declared it the largest he had ever examined.

As it would seem, Rulloff’s vicious behavior seem to have run in the family. His youngest brother, a notable 19th century photographer named William Rulofson, was known to have a vicious temper himself. William had ten kids from two wives, of which one of them, Charles, murdered his half-sister. The boy was nine years old.

…and to leave this entry off, here’s an excerpt from Rulloff’s Restauant’s biography of Edward Rulloff:

“Unrepentant to the end, Rulloff proclaimed in his final interview, published in the Ithaca Daily Leader the week before his death, ‘…you cannot kill an unquiet spirit, and I know that my impending death will not mean the end of Rulloff. In the dead of night, walking along Cayuga Street, you will sense my presence. When you wake to a sudden chill, I will be in the room. And when you find yourself alone at the lake shore, gazing at gray Cayuga, know that I was cut short and your ancestors killed me.‘”

Sweet dreams.

News tidbits 1/6/2012: If You Screwed Up Once, You Can Screw Up Again

6 01 2012

As time has gone on and I become more removed from my days at Cornell, this blog focuses less and less on student-specific events, such as Greek Life. But then, news articles like this pop up:

After Hospitalization, TKE May Lose Recognition

January 6, 2012
By Jeff Stein

Cornell will revoke its recognition of Tau Kappa Epsilon following reports of an alcohol-related hospitalization of a freshman unless the fraternity succeeds in its appeal of the decision, according to multiple sources.

In a memo obtained by The Sun on Thursday, University administrators faulted TKE for reportedly failing to ensure the safety of a highly intoxicated individual — the same oversight that officials say led to the death of George Desdunes ’13 last spring. Sixteen former pledges of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the fraternity in which Desdunes died, joined TKE a few months later.

The freshman, who had been consuming alcohol before attending TKE’s event, arrived at a recruitment dinner hosted by TKE at the China Buffet on Nov. 11. While it “remains unclear if he continued to consume alcohol at the dinner,” TKE did provide both beer and hard alcohol at the event, the report states.

But as early as September, the University had reason to believe “rumors that SAE has been operating through TKE,” according to the report, when administrators learned of plans for the “White Party” — an event “historically hosted by SAE [as a] social activity attracting hundreds of community members.”

“Out of great concern for the safety of attendees, considering that TKE would not be prepared to host a large event such as this, due to their inexperience, we placed the chapter on interim suspension,” the report states.

The memo then notes that, in a meeting with administrators, fraternity leadership agreed to cancel the event, terminate plans they had to “induct ‘little sisters’” and work with the TKE national organization toward building TKE “traditions that the community could support, as opposed to adopting SAE traditions.”

Despite these promises, “it became clear in that meeting that SAE’s former members, those who were fully initiated and have no affiliation with TKE, have significant influence on TKE as an organization,” the report states.


I read stories like this and I cringe. I’m a fairly avid supporter of Greek Life at Cornell. But stories like this make me rethink my stance. I understand that the person may or may not have consumed beverages at their recruitment dinner. Okay, innocent until proven guilty. But you’d think for a group of pledges that watched some of their pledgebrothers be indicted for killing someone, they’d use a little more precaution than “we’ll just drop him back off at his room and hope he’ll be fine”.

But that seems to merely be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The administration was bothered by how the chapter became SAE with a different set of letters. I couldn’t agree more. I am strongly bothered by the open flaunting of the SAE connection, and figuratively (maybe literally?) pissing on TKE’s original brotherhood and traditions (not that it wasn’t expected). I don’t know how much of the comments on the article to believe, but I don’t think they’re far from the mark. Calling yourself “Epsilon” because you feel the fraternity that took you in is so inferior you still have to tie it in to SAE (stating the obvious here, but it’s a nod to the fact that both Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon share that letter). It just disgusts me. You’re not SAE. SAE of Cornell was doomed the moment George Desdunes died due to alcohol poisoning administered during a pledge kidnapping.

It’s sad. Sad that TKE was so desperate for social status and growth that they sold out everything their brotherhood was. Sad that SAE let someone die. Sad that one organization is gone completely and the other one is about to be kicked off campus. Sad that this reflects on the whole system, which is in a percarious enough position as it is.

What an ignominious way to go. I hope as a Greek alumnus that if my fraternity was ever in TKE’s position that they would just close instead of selling out.



News Tidbits 6/28/11: The Lawsuit Everybody Expected

28 06 2011

So, the Cornell Sun (on its bare bones summer staff) has noted that the mother of George Desdunes ’13, the SAE brother who died in a hazing event this past February, is suing the national fraternity for $25 million. I’m no expert on legal matters, but I do know this has significant precedent with cases from other universities, and SAE has been slapped with three wrongful death lawsuits  in just the past five years. Most of the wrongful death cases were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, although at least one, a case against a University of Texas chapter of SAE, was awarded $16.2 million (I’m not positive, but I believe it’s the fraternity’s insurance company that pays out, but the fraternity then finds it that much more difficult and expensive to have adequate coverage for their liabilities, which is necessary for recognition on many campuses. So although the fraternity doesn’t pay out directly, their finances still detrimentally impacted).

Now, here’s my question: is she bring a lawful death lawsuit against Cornell?

In a previous entry, I described how a similar incident had occurred at M.I.T. back in the late 1990s with the death of a pledge at their FIJI chapter. In that case, the Kreuger family held M.I.T. responsible for a lack of supervision of the fraternity that allowed the death to occur. Although a formal lawsuit against the school was never filed, MIT did pay out $6 million to the family, of which $1.25 million went to a memorial scholarship. In hazing-wrongful death lawsuits, it seems, at a casual glance, that while it’s common for the fraternities local chapters and national organizations to be sued, it unusual for the school to be sued, perhaps because its much more difficult to build a case. But, I would not hold out against the possibility that if the lawyers are zealous enough, they can use the lack of supervision against Cornell and receive a similar settlement.  For one thing, SAE lived in a university-owned property and the incident allegedly took place in the Townhouses on North Campus.

So, the obvious take-away from this news is that SAE is screwed and totally responsible for their members’ actions. But in the bigger picture, one does wonder if the plaintiffs are going to try and go after Cornell as well.

How the Mighty Have Fallen

19 03 2011

So it’s official. Sigma Alpha Epsilon, up until now the second largest chapter in the Greek system, is being booted from campus for a period of five years. All members must vacate the university-owned facility by the end of the month. I think the following passage is the most disturbing:

“At this time, the information provided to the university indicates that George Desdunes, 19, was provided alcohol while in the care of certain members and associate members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and became incapacitated. Even though the members and associate members recognized the condition Desdunes was in, they failed to call for medical care. He subsequently died.”

Let’s be honest. Associate members = pledges in this case. Also, just about anyone who’s been in a fraternity can vouch they knew “that” guy who got really, really drunk one time at a frat party or a mixer, so they gave him some water, a bucket just in case, and laid him on a couch to sleep it off (or maybe that was just in my experience). But this time, either members failed to recognize the severity of the situation – tragic but not impossible – or they realized the extent of the situation and did nothing. Which I really, sincerely hope wasn’t the case, especially since a number of criminal charges are likely in the upcoming weeks.

It’s hard to imagine a system without SAE occupying its lofty Hillcrest estate. But, there is a habit in recent years of the largest, most visible houses being shut down for one reason or another. Pi Kappa Alpha was one of the largest chapters in the system back in the 1980s and 1990s, their recognition was suspended after an incident a couple years ago sent three rushees to the hospital. Before In the mid 2000s, the largest chapter was Sigma Pi, which was suspended and forced to reorganize in 2007 after they sent Thanksgiving attendees to the hopsital with alcohol poisoning. It seems that the largest houses are more apt at screwing up.

It’s difficult to picture Cornell’s Greek Life without one of its prominent members. But under the circumstances, I would’ve been even more surprised if they had been allowed to continue on campus.

Cornell’s History, All Drugged Up

11 01 2011

So, the latest news tidbit about a Cornell student being caught with $150,000 of heroin has made the news cycles and attracted some undesriable attention toward the university. Which kinda inspired me to look at it in a historical context. It’s what I do.

It’s college. Drugs exist. Some are easier to get a hold of than others. Some are gateway drugs, others are only used by a hardcore group of students. Once in a while, the drug debate comes up in a campus context. The Cornell Daily Sun ran an article about Cornell’s drug culture about two years ago. In the article, it was noted in a 2005 anonymous Gannett survey of students, that of 1,969 respondents, 41% admitted some form of drug or alcohol use in the past 30 days, with 19.8% reporting marijuana use and 4% reporting other drug use.

(with that in mind, considering the university’s undergad pop of about 13, 800, that would suggest 550 users of other drugs, which could include cocaine, LSD and the aforementioned heroin. If [an overly-generous] 50 percent were heroin users, that gives us about 275 students. Which if the street value is correctly reported, than the student was carrying $545 worth of heroin for each user. In conclusion, with that much heroin, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was supplying the entire county).

A similar set of data from 2003 suggests 8 percent of respondents admitted Ritalin/Adderall use without a prescription, and less than 3 percent partook in white lines. Another link on Gannett’s site looks at drug use in 2000, and the rates were largely the same as in following studies (except for hard drugs – those fell a little bit). The article notes that affluent students and students in Greek Life show slightly higher usage rates. Looking at Gannett’s site, if we throw in the more prevalent drugs, tobacco use as defined as at least once in the past 30 days has gone from 21 to 16 percent from fall 2000 to fall 2005. Alcohol use defined as once in the past 30 days has hovered around 75 percent and remained fairly steady through the three studies.

So that’s handy and all, but it’s a smallish sample size compared to the entire student population, and it depends on people answering truthfully. So the numbers could be seen as dubious. Regardless, it’s obvious that students partake in drug use.


Now to look at things in a historical context. Drug use was around well before the university. But in 1865 in little Ithaca, the drugs of choice were generally the alcoholic or tobacco variety. The big drugs in the 19th century were alcohol, tobacco, and to a lesser extent opiates and (in later years,) cocaine. Marijuana was seen as a medicinal drug, not a recreational one (that changed after around 1910). Marijuana use at Cornell was minor prior to the 1960s, which is when it caught on with middle-class whites – i.e. most of Cornell’s student population. It is stayed relatively popular since, even after drug laws became tougher in the mid-1980s. As for the opiates, they would see occasional use throughout the next 100+ years, as opium in the late 1800s, morphine and heroin in later years. Heroin received its first notoriety among students when it caught on with the Beatnik culture of the 1950s.  With the increase of purity (strength) of heroin in the 1980s and 1990s, demand, and addiction, grew. Although, going by Gannett’s survey, usage dropped off somewhat at Cornell after 2000. Tobacco saw steady and common use by all branches of the university’s stakeholders since Cornell’s founding, and became so prevalent that in the early 1960s a person could smoke anywhere but inside Sage Chapel. But, needless to say, that’s not the case anymore.

If Cornell follows national trends, it would be safe to say that cocaine use peaked in the early 1980s, with maybe some sporadic crack use after its introduction around 1985. I would be willing to suspect that the “glamor” of powdered coke was preferable to perceived “ghetto” qualities of its freebase equivalent.

Regarding LSD, Cornellians probably first experienced the drug in the early 1960s. Well, willingly anyway. Two Cornell Medical School professors were part of a government project in the 1950s and 1960s to administer LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs on unwilling participants. It was initially hoped by the military that it could be used like a truth serum, and later studies checked it out for therapeutic qualities on mentally-deficient patients. The drug peaked in the late 1960s and saw another slight rise in the late 1990s, but otherwise has seen a general decline.

Now back to our preferred chemical companion – alcohol. The first students of Cornell would’ve usually consumed beer (liquor was as it is now – expensive) down at one of the saloons in town, and there was no standard policy against drinking (Bishop 210). “Give My Regards to Davy” celebrates this aspect of student life (although I should note that highballs are mixed drinks – scotch and soda water). A Cornell Era report from around 1890 suggests that a couple saloons was enough to serve all students, and drunkenness was uncommon. In the 1910s, drinking was common, but seen as a way to celebrate athletic victories, but drunkenness on campus was seen as grounds for dismissal (Bishop 407-408). Prohibition was a major thorn in the side of students and bar owners, but they found ways around the law – Theta Delta Chi had a speakeasy built into their house when it was built in 1926.  A Cornell Sun article from March 4, 1937 reports that drinking at colleges was on the rise after Prohibition, but that public drunkenness was abhorred. The report was “Students…admire the man who can drink like a gentleman” (pg. 3). It seems that a celebrated culture of binge drinking took off around 1980 – the “Animal House” influence, perhaps. Although underage drinking was supposed to be curtailed by the increase of the drinking age from 18 to 21 in December 1985, that has largely proven untrue.

People age, drug preferences change, but students are timeless.

The Uncertainty of the Greek System

25 08 2010

Add-ons to email services are wonderful things. Right now, I mostly sit in my grad office all day doing work (the rare exceptions will be my grad classes and my TA work, neither of which actually start until Monday). My email is one of my few escapes. Anyways, on my four-accounts-feeding-to-one setup, I have a Cornell newsfeed. Today, one of the top stories was the proposed changes to the Greek System, which seek to drastically alter the social environment. Quoting the article, which came from the Daily Sun:

“…Starting in the fall of 2011, freshmen will not be allowed to attend any fraternity parties in the second half of the fall semester. Three days of rush week during January 2012 will be dry. Mixers will be prohibited for the first six weeks of the new member process, and each sorority can have two mixers a week for the remaining two weeks.

Finally, in fall 2012, freshmen will be prohibited from all fraternity parties that involve alcohol. In January 2013, the entire rush week will be alcohol free. Social events between fraternities and sororities that involved alcohol will be prohibited during all eight weeks before new members are initiated.”

The intent is noble enough; to curtail underage drinking and prevent alcohol-related crime and illness. To someone in the Greek system though, it sounds a bit scary. Let’s acknowledge the not-so-secret fact that a substantial amount of publicity, and recruiting, comes from freshman visiting houses during parties, where alcohol is readily available. What other time are they going to learn about the houses before rush (and Greek Week doesn’t count because it is a collective show of Greek pride by all chapters at once)? Some are already bemoaning this latest act as the death of the Cornell Greek system (and some hope for as much).

First of all, it’s not. Cornell’s Greek system is much, much more  regulated than the chapters that exist at my grad school, which are basically like street gangs with Greek letters. The system may only limp forward, but it will persist.

Secondly, this isn’t the first time these plans have been espoused. In Scott Conroe’s book I Take Just Pride, one section details how in 1999, then-president Hunter Rawlings gave a speech to the Greek System where he espoused his belief that fully half of the houses on campus would likely close as a result of the execution of the Initiative and the establishment of a house system for upperclassmen. I have yet to see evidence that that has turned out to be the case. A similar intent was espoused by a residential initiative that Cornell launched in the late 1950s and 1960s (the goal there was to make small dorms that were like fraternities, but without all of the problems they cause).

Another date that Greeks were terrified of: December 31, 1985. It was the date the drinking age in New York State went from 18 to 21. In copies of the Daily Sun from 1985, fears were expressed that this would ruin the Greek System, for many of the same reason people fear the latest proposals. But, drinking went underground and everyone turned a blind eye. Kegs were banned from open parties after an alcohol-related death in 1989, but the Greek System still persisted.

Arguably, Cornell’s focus should be on a much larger scale. Fraternity parties are notorious for under-21 drinking, but it’s an issue kept behind closed doors. However, even more undiscussed are the house parties and club organizations, which are just as receptive to underage drinking. Sports teams, the Big Red Band, the Daily Sun, Glee Club…freshmen are going to drink one way or another. When the fraternities are prohibited, they’ll just migrate to the houses and private parties of Collegetown, which are mostly unregulated. I would suggest Cornell crack down on all organizations and do Collegetown foot patrols, but the thought of that is nothing short of Orwellian.

Do I see a whole lot coming from this? Not really. There will be much maneuvering, and some face laws, but I don’t see a whole lot of change occurring. Everyone is going to look for ways to let things slide under the radar once again. If it somehow turns out that the Greek System is incapacitated by the new rules, I suspect it will only take a little waiting and watching until other student organizations or even independent groups of people will step in to fill the void of underage drinking.